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Are You a Manager or a Leader?

Dave Hershman
May 29, 2012

We have thousands of managers in this industry, but only a small percentage that are actually great examples of leaders. I applaud National Mortgage Professional Magazine’s focus on the topic of leadership this month because if we are going to thrive as an industry in the future, we certainly need more effective leaders. Of course, it is incumbent upon us to define the difference between a “manager” and a “leader” so that our managers might recognize where they need improvement. The following represent my keys to great leadership from my book, The Complete Mortgage Management Kit. Having long-term vision Everyone in this industry has vision. However, because managers are typically producers, recruiters and coaches, they often do not have time to look beyond what is in front of them day-to-day. Therefore, we can say that they don’t have great long-term vision. Great leaders can see the big picture. Every action we take can affect that big picture, but we don’t necessarily see the connection because of our myopic view. For example, do you know a loan officer that needs to be coached in a particular area, but you do not have enough time to focus on that particular issue? When the issue arises, you tell yourself that you need to talk to them. But when the issue quiets down, you let it ride because you have so many other pressing concerns. What kind of long-term damage is being done? Could you perhaps cause another loan officer who is bothered by the problem to resign? What are the long-term consequences of inaction? Is a great example A great leader is a great example for their employees. Actually, we typically select our managers as examples in one respect. The top producers become managers. Branches are typically more profitable with a top producing manager. Unfortunately, we also assume that a top producing manager will be able to show others how to produce. This is not necessarily the case. In addition, the production of a manager is often not of the highest quality. Again, the lack of time can exacerbate this situation. However, if the manager does not do a great job of bringing in high quality loans and taking care of business from a complete loan application to settlement, then they are not the great example they need to be. Even the way that a manager handles stress is an important part of being a good example. When the fires hit, does the manage react to stress by fanning the fire, or by leading others to safety? Following up How many times have you told your loan officers that they must follow up to both convert leads and get loans closed? Well, following up is just as important for leaders. Again, because of time constraints, managers are hard-pressed to follow-up on every detail that is important. But if you don’t return phone calls and e-mail on a timely basis, how do you expect your loan officers to do the same? Again, you set the example in this regard. Communication skills Great leadership is displayed through great communication skills. This includes not only follow-up skills, but what I will call “proactive communication.” While following up requires that we respond to problems quickly, proactive communication means that we prevent problems from happening. Perhaps it is an extra communication to an underwriter on a file or getting the word out about a program change. An example of communication skills are not limited to just calls. Leaders should have above average public speaking and writing skills. If you cannot get in front of a group of loan officers and inspire them, how do you expect your loan officer to get in front of a group of real estate agents? Retention Great managers hire producers and great leaders retain those producers. Do you work harder at recruiting than you do in supporting your employees? Do you even know where they need help? This is again where following up and communication skills are essential. It is sometimes not easy to determine where our employees need help, however, spending the time and effort to find out is very important. Listening Great leaders are great listeners. Yes, we often have to teach and inspire as leaders, but if we don’t listen, we will never find out what our employees really need. Even in interviews, we should be asking questions and listening, rather than talking. Of course, in order to teach our salespeople to be better at converting prospects, we need to be able to teach them advanced questioning and listening skills. Selling and leading are not all that different in this regard. Great salespeople are also great leaders. Honesty A leader’s integrity can never be in question. Again, this brings us back to the point regarding being an example. If we are not “THE” example in this regard, how can we not expect the same from our loan officers and operational staff? Many walk a fine line in this industry, but leaders must stand very clear of this line. Consistency Leaders must be consistent in their direction. Are you someone who schedules a staff meeting when there is a catastrophe or sends out an “effective immediately” e-mail? Or, do you schedule meetings on a regular basis to prevent these issues from arising? Can your employees count on your reaction day-to-day, or do they fear which personality will show up day-to-day? Delegate Delegation by leaders is important with regard to your own time management, but also you can deliver more skills to your employees in order for them to grow. This is a key to retention and the “I do everything myself” mentality only retards the progress of those you serve. A positive message A great leader carries a positive message. Again, we want to be the example in this regard. If you don’t carry a positive message, why should others around you do the same? This positive message should include thanking your employees and clients often. Even the way you carry your message is important. When you are “criticizing or pointing out a mistake,” it should be done in private. When you are lavishing praise, this should be accomplished in public. I hope this list is helpful to our readers. As you strive to move from a manager to a leader, you can see that there are many facets of leadership for which you should aspire. Dave Hershman is a top author in the mortgage industry with seven books published, as well as hundreds of articles. Dave has delivered hundreds of keynote speeches, seminars and schools for the industry as well. He may be reached by e-mail at [email protected] or visit OriginationPro.com.
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